OK, so I may be a little bias, but at times I honestly think that Birmingham may be the most beautiful city in the UK. I know that a lot of people will disagree but bear with me and I will prove my point! Birmingham has long been depicted as a grey, concrete mongrel of a city and in part, that is true. Birmingham owes a lot to it’s industrial past and should not be ashamed of it, in fact, it should celebrate it.
However, the huge amount of development going on it the city stands testament to it’s progressive nature. Anyway, I digress. You don’t need to be a photographer to understand that at the right time of day, in the right light, our city looks beautiful and can easily compete with any major city in the UK in terms of it’s aesthetic appeal. It may not have the beautiful Georgian streets of Bath or the ultra-modern skyscrapers of the capital, but it does have it’s own unique character and that goes a long way.
1) Bullring at Sunrise
Now this may be a little bit of an obvious choice as it was my ‘break through’ image and the one that really got me a lot of attention, but look at it, it’s a beautiful view! This shot has been done a thousand times a thousand different ways and rightly so, as it is one of the most appealing views in the city. An early morning stroll through the Bullring is a must and if you catch a good sunrise, it’s generally spectacular.
2) Gas Street Basin in Winter
Another image that you’ve probably seen before is a shot back across Gas Street Basin. Birmingham owes a lot to it’s canal network that fed it’s industrial past. These days, it plays home to many canal-side bars and restaurants (more of that later) but it is also an incredibly popular waterway and commonly plays home to dozens of canal barges that make for a pretty nice image.
3) Edgbaston Reservoir
It is hard to believe that this view is just a few minutes out of the City Centre and you would be forgiven for believing you have been transported to a beautiful countryside spot. If you are lucky enough to visit the reservoir in Winter you will normally be treated to a beautiful frosty scene and if you get a good sunrise, there are not many better places to be in the city.
4) Moor Street Station
Birmingham has it’s fair share of major train stations from the recently redeveloped New Street Station, to the ‘long over-due a facelift’ Snowhill Station, but by far the most attractive of the lot is Moor Street Station. Although it is a busy station, it has a been lovingly renovated with more than just a nod to it’s past, including beautiful signage and authentic touches throughout. It even has a disused piece of track that just adds to the nostalgic feel.
5) Brindley Place Canals
As mentioned before, Birmingham’s canals now play host to many bars and restaurants that prove hugely popular all year round. A Summer’s stroll along the canal is a treat, stopping for an icy cold cider along the way. Equally, in Winter, the mist covered canals look mesmerising and transport you back in time, but with easier access to burgers and cocktails!
6) The Big Wheel
We couldn’t talk about the beauty of the city without acknowledging the annual city centre takeover that is the Frankfurt Christmas Market. Although it is positively Marmite when it comes to dividing opinion, it is difficult to ignore it’s impact. For photographers, it’s is a veritable goldmine of potential and probably the centerpiece being the huge ‘Birmingham Wheel’. However, finding new ways of picturing it brings it’s own challenges.
7) Aston Expressway
How can Aston Expressway be beautiful? OK, even I admit this one is a stretch of the imagination but I challenge anyone to not love the occasional ‘long exposure’ shot of the traffic (actually) moving through the city. Another example of how a unique perspective on the city can prove that it is more visually appealing than first imagined.
8) Stephenson Street
Birmingham is certainly a mix of ‘the old and the new’ and rarely is that so evidential than the view along Stephenson Street. With the modern, metal clad New Street Station on the left and the historic buildings on the right, it shows the constant juxtaposition that is found all across the city. Even the freshly laid tram tracks are a huge nod to the past, albeit with it’s cool new modern trams shuffling people around the city.
9) Victoria Statue
If the City Centre does one thing well, it’s big open spaces. From Centenary Square, through to the Bullring and beyond, one thing Birmingham can not be accused of is being cramped. The centerpiece is Victoria Square where Victoria herself stands proudly. Whilst the redevelopment of Paradise Circus continues and the gaping hole left by the demolition of the Old Library, the sun sets just behind ‘old Vic’ and makes for a pleasant image of the cities main open space.
10) Skyline at Sunset
It may not be Manhattan but to millions of people, the Birmingham Skyline is iconic. The Rotunda, BT Tower and even more modern structures such as Beetham Tower and the Slefridges building are instantly recognisable.
Long gone are the days when it was easy to criticise Birmingham and yes, it is a little rough around the edges. However, I hope these images go someway to show that Birmingham can be beautiful and we should be proud of our city. After all, there is no other city out there quite like Birmingham!